June 2015 - Room 213

Promo 1

Promo 2

Promo 3

Prom: Dance or Photo-Op

Technology seems to be changing so many things, causing us to evaluate how and why we do what we do.  I never thought that prom would be one of those things, but yesterday, the day after our prom, we were doing a whole lot of evaluating.

Pictures have always been a big part of any graduation.  Matching outfits, perfectly coifed hair, professionally done makeup and nails--these are all hallmarks of prom, "necessities" so everyone will look amazing in the photos.  But now with Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, the photos aren't just for memories; they are, well, Everything.

We have always been a little frustrated with how early some kids would leave the prom, anxious to go home to shed their fancy clothes, don their jeans and hoodies and head to the parentally-dreaded prom party.  That much has not changed.  What has changed is that while they are at the prom -- the event that they planned for months and spent crazy amounts of money on -- they don't even dance.  Instead, they pose.

At our prom, under the twinkling fairy lights and balloons that we had spent hours putting up, a very
long line snaked by the empty candle-laden tables.  The line up was not for food or the bath-room.  It was for the Photo Booth. This line was where many of the grads spent their evening.  Once they had their moment in the booth, it was time to go.

So, it has us wondering.  A whole lot of man hours and expense go into planning and holding prom.  It took a whole day to create a magical ceiling over the dance floor and beautiful tables for our grads to sit at--was it worth it when so few were dancing and sitting?  Is it time for prom to evolve into something else?  Are those of us who wonder these things just part of an older generation who has to let go of the old traditions and just chill?  I'd love to know what other people think.  Are you experiencing similar issues at your school? Have you come up with any creative solutions?  Or, is it an issue to even worry about?  I'm looking forward to hearing what you think!


One Sentence You Should Never Say to a Teacher in June

It happens every year.  I hear it in the grocery store, at church, on the street, even from my friends and extended family: "It must be great to be winding down!"  BAM.  My back goes up and I want to ask, "Are you freakin' serious?"  But I push down the sarcasm, smile and say, as nicely as I can at that moment, "Sure is."

The question always comes from the most well-intentioned person, one who is happy for me that summer is at last within reach.  However it's one that makes me crazy, because it shows, once again, that so many people Just. Don't. Get. It.

The reality is that during the last month of high school we are actually winding up to one of the most pressure-filled times of the year.  The clock is ticking very loudly in our ears and we are trying the best we can to get everything covered, at a time when our students are tired, excited about summer and completely uninterested in what we are trying to do.  It's also a time when teachers are tired, excited about summer and completely uninterested in what we are trying to do. Not a good combination.  We are setting exams and marking them.  We are racing to meet impossible deadlines set by our administration who think it's ok to ask for marks the day after an exam is written.  It's a time when we spend evenings and weekends at our dining room tables, surrounded by paper, while our neighbours are frolicking outdoors.  It's a time when we are filling in report cards and organizing graduations and cleaning up a year's worth of mess in our classrooms.

It's also a time when we are trying our darndest to motivate some of our students to get enough marks to pass and/or graduate.  We are pushing and pulling and rooting for them to rise to the occasion, feeling joy when they do, and grief if they don't.  We are dealing with angry phone calls and emails from parents telling us we have ruined their child's life because s/he did nothing all year and we had the unmitigated gall to hold them accountable for that.  Dodging the blades of the helicopter parent is a one of the biggest hazards in this profession, especially in June.

But we can handle the work and the stress.  That's actually the easy part of June.  What's really hard is that we have to let go and say goodbye.  Students who have become "our kids" are leaving our classrooms and our lives.  We have spent the semester--or even the last three years--building relationships with them and then it's over.  They are with us for a short moment and, no matter how much we have meant to each other, it always comes to an end.  It's bittersweet, but it's part of the job. We just hug them, smile proudly and move on, knowing that in September, the room just won't feel right for a while.

So, the next time you see a teacher in the dying days of a school year, resist the urge to utter that sentence.  Instead, put a supportive arm around him or her and say, "Hang in there. Summer's coming!"


Looking Ahead Blog Hop

Planning for next year?  These secondary teachers want to help you with that!
I'm excited to be joining up with some amazing secondary ELA teachers who want to share some tips for starting next year off right.

One way to do that is to end this school year with a little reflection and planning. I'm always worn out by the end of June; however, if I dig deep and spend some time planning for next year, I will be so much happier in September (and I'll get more time off in August!)

Every semester I think of things I'd like to tweak the next time I do a unit, but I never make notes, just assuming I will remember when the time comes. Then I don't.  I'll be in the middle of something before I realize that I'd planned to change things up.  So this year, I'm making notes before I leave, and I'm making a commitment to myself that I'll keep it up during the school year.
A free organizer for planning for next year.
Start a binder or a journal (grab the cover here). Use it to record ideas and "notes to self" as your school year progresses. Find a special place for it on your desk, so it's always close by. Include a calendar and mark when you started and ended units, so you will be able to remember how long it took you to complete each one.  More importantly, include sheets where you can reflect on your successes and failures.

A free organizer for planning for next year.I've already started recording some ideas for next year on my planning pages.  I'm trying to focus on the specific skills where students are weak and to reflect on what I can do to work on those weaknesses.  You can grab these free planning pages here.  

I'd also like to recommend one of my favorite products, the English Student's Guidebook.  It contains most of the info that English students need at their fingertips, things like how to embed quotations, how to write a works cited page, how to do a close read of a text, etc.  The flipbook is easy to use and gets rave reviews from my students, who love the fact that all of the information is in one spot that is easily accessible.  It would be a wonderful-and useful-gift to give your students at the beginning of the new semester.

This guidebook is the perfect reference for secondary English students.
Regardless of how prepared you are when you leave, make sure you take care of yourself over the summer.  Rest, relax and recharge that battery!


A Calculus Scavenger Hunt

For those who follow me, you know I'm a big advocate of using activity to help students learn.  I'd like to share an idea for a math class that can be easily adapted for any subject, with a little imagination.

Last Friday afternoon was a beautiful end of May day.  I came back after lunch to find my husband (who teachers math and physics at my school), in the middle of the parking lot, holding a clipboard while his calculus students raced around the soccer fields and parking lots.  They were working the concept of integration and he had devised a scavenger hunt that had them outside and moving AND doing calculus.  Before the class, he went outside and wrote five integration problems with chalk on the side of the building, the parking lot, the outdoor basketball net, etc. He tried to find inconspicuous spots so they would have to hunt for them.

Students were sent in groups, with a clipboard, to hunt for each problem.  Once they found all five, they had to solve them, which they did, sitting on the grass in the beautiful sunshine.  Groups would get a point for every problem they found and a point for each one they solved correctly. In addition, the first place team got three points, the second place team got two, and the third got one extra point.  All teams got to have a lot of fun, a fair bit of exercise, and an opportunity to work on integration.  Sounds like a win-win!

It got me thinking as to how I could do something similar in an English class: You could write random lines from a poem that they would have to try to put together correctly. Or you could scribble obscure vocabulary words that they would have to try to use correctly in a sentence -- although you may have to collect phones ahead of time so they don't look the words up!

There are many ways we can get our kids outside and keep them learning.  If you'd like to get some more, you might be interested in my Outdoor Activities for Secondary English. It has lots of ideas for taking your class outside and get work done.  My husband also has lots of indoor math games at his TpT Store.

If you have great ideas for getting your kids either moving to learn, or learning while they go outside, please share them below!


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